French Lawmakers Approve New Boss for Finance Watchdog

Former bank lobbyist Marie-Anne Barbat-Layani has been cleared to head up France’s financial markets regulator, after lawmakers voted 55-28 in favor of her appointment on Wednesday.

Barbat-Layani, currently Secretary-General at the French economics and finance ministry, is now set to take over from Robert Ophèle as chair of the Financial Markets Authority (AMF), responsible for registering crypto companies as well as traditional financial institutions.

The French government, which is keen to see the country become a crypto hub, has set up one of the first crypto licensing regimes in the European Union. France has anticipated the European Union’s bloc-wide rules known as the Markets in Crypto Assets Regulation (MiCA) that could take effect in 2024.

But Barbat-Layani also sent a warning to licensed crypto firms, reminding lawmakers that licenses once granted can also be taken away – and that this not a bug of the system, but an intended feature.

A recent case where a crypto company was deregistered “shows the benefits” of the French measures, she told senators at a hearing held Tuesday. “Seeing your registration withdrawn has the effect of reverse advertising, which was one of the things that the AMF sought in terms of communication.”

“I greatly admire the approach that was taken by the AMF” in setting up the system and ensuring protections for young investors seeking to get into crypto, said Barbat-Layani, who was Director-General of the French Banking Federation from 2014 to 2019. “It was a form of bet, not necessarily welcomed unanimously at the time … I think that this risk taking was justified.”

Barbat-Layani was likely referred to crypto company Bykep, whose crypto registration was removed without the company’s consent in September – a first for the AMF. The regulator cited “serious failings” in money laundering controls and a costly theft via cyber attack.

CoinDesk was unable to reach Bykep, previously known as Keplerk, for comment. According to the AMF, Bykep had protested that the accusations didn’t justify the removal of its license.

France’s desire to be a crypto hub was restated by finance minister Bruno Le Maire in an interview published Monday. Major crypto companies such as Binance and have already registered under the country’s regime, which is managed by the AMF alongside the central bank.

Read more: France to Explore Crypto Tax Treatment Next Year

The Senate committee voted 20-1 in favor of the appointment, while the National Assembly voted 35-27 in favor, a Senate spokesperson told CoinDesk. Lawmakers could have blocked the appointment if 60% of them had voted against.

Quotations have been translated from French.